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Ask Dr. Schauer ~ tanning bed eye protection

“My daughter thinks by just closing her eyes in the suntan bed, it protects her eyes. I always buy her packs of eye protection but she never takes them to the tanning bed. Can you explain the dangers of not using eye protection in a tanning bed?”

Our 103.3 US Country listener from Washburn is correct to be concerned about his daughter’s eyes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, tanning beds can provide as much as 100 times the UV exposure you get from outdoor sun tanning. That amount of UV exposure is certainly something to raise alarm.

Can I just close my eyes in the suntan bed?

If you think about it, your eyelids still allow some light to pass through them. This is why if you close your eyes in a tanning bed, you still see an orange-red glow through your eyelids. But how much of that light contains UV rays? That is highly debatable, depending on which source you read. However, they all agree that UV rays can be very damaging to the skin on your eyelids themselves.

Your eyelid skin is thinner than the rest of the skin on your body. This does make them more susceptible to UV damage. Eyelid cancer accounts for 10% of all skin cancer, with the lower lid being more commonly affected. Therefore it is absolutely important to wear appropriate protective eyewear while tanning and it is not safe to just close your eyes.

If any UV rays pass through your eyelids, or if you don’t close your eyes completely, we do know that UV damage can cause photokeratitis, pterygium formation, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

What other risks does tanning put me at?

While I agree our listener should be concerned about his daughter’s eyes, he should also be concerned with the rest of her body. There are over 400,000 new cases of skin cancer in the United States each year, with over 6,000 of those cases being melanoma.

There are actually more cases of skin cancer associated with tanning than there are cases of lung cancer due to smoking, according to a study done by the Journal of the American Medical Association in dermatology.

While you should think about your eyes, you should also think about if tanning is really the best choice for your health



Top image by skitterphoto on Pexels (location) used under Creative Commons Zero (CCO) License. Image has been cropped and modified from original. Image rights state commercial use and modifications allowed when image was obtained on 10/03/2017.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.